Station defense and it's implications

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    Hello fellow nerds,
    for the past couple years, i have been thinking about the problem of weak stations in starmade.
    I would like players to spawn a ton of stations, expand to multiple starsystems and generally build lots of infrastructure and an empire. There are two issues that prevent that:
    - stations are hard to defend, if given the option on how to invest the resources, a ship is always better than a station.
    - players can not be online 24/7, there is a very real possibility that you build an empire, log on 3 days later and its all gone
    the first problem had lots of attempts to solve it in the past. Make stations reactor stronger, give them bigger range, buff their shields etc etc.
    None of these "soft" solutions (changing mechanics that buff stations) has worked out so far.
    The second problem was supposed to be solved by the first one, strong stations are hard to destroy so it takes time.
    All soft solutions fail if you just bring a bigger ship in the next attack attempt.

    Here is my attempt to solve the above problems:
    Make stations in your starsystem completely invulnerable and add a "siege" system where this invulerability can be turned off, over the course of multiple hours or even days.
    I made a mod prototype, it adds a "voidshield". If the voidshield is active, all stations that belong to the faction, which controls the system have indestructible shields.
    To active the voidshield, you have to control "strongpoints", 3-7 special sectors in the system by having a station of yours in it. strongpoints are not protected by the voidshield.
    The voidshields HP increase if the owner controls the majority of strongpoints, the HP decrease if someone else controls the majority of strongpoints. if the HP reach zero, the voidshield goes inactive. For now the HPs are capped at 1000, giving 3 minutes of invulnerability after loosing all strongpoints, but that can be set to whatever time you want, 2 hours, 3 days, 4 months.
    <Stronghold>

    I would like the communities feedback to this prototype, if you think its the right way to solve the station-weakness or how you would improve it.
     
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    hey nice to see that you have this project going! I like the idea of fleshing out station mechanics.

    Regarding your request towards feedback:
    • Submit some pictures of how important game mechanics are made visible for the player.
    • The idea of controlling strongpoints is great from a roleplay and adventure builder perspective: Admins can fill systems with stations and players that want to conquer it have to attack certain stations first.
    • To adress general players you have to split up the playerbase first: Online time? Play focus pvp/creative/roleplay/combination of all? For who is that mod made?
    • Lets assume a player like me when I played 1 year ago, online once a week, 1 - 4 hours, in the first or second week maybe 8 hours play time. Playstyle combination of all.
      • I prefer not having to worry at all about my builds if I am offline - so having any sort of vulnerability is a no go, no matter how many stations attackers need to destroy.
      • suggestion: What would make it bearable to have destroyable stations would be if my strong points get conquered, and then when I come online I have 10 hours of playtime left to reconquer them. If I dont reconquer my strongpoints my other stations become vulnerable.
    • Generaly I would like to have a basic setting, where I can have multiple stations in my conquered system, and to protect more than one.
      • Maybe having at least 3 stations invulnerable no matter what would be good.
    • Lastly, I suggest you define what your mod goal is: Do you want a purpose for players to build stations? Do you want to have a possibility to make invulnerable stations? Do you want to have a way that players build stations that get attacked?
      • Generaly ask yourself: The goal of stronger stations that you seek - How would a perfect game look like to you where that is done propperly?
      • Elaborate in your mod description a little bit more on that goal of "stronger stations": What do you mean with stronger stations? More HP? A reason to have stations? A reason to control multiple stations?
      • I do understand, that your reasoning is, that you want the player to build more stations. In this case you dont want stronger stations, you want the concept of building more stations to be stronger. ;)

    To have a reason for building more stations I recommend the following (does not adress your mod directly):
    • Easy blueprint catalogs, where you can combine different station parts (walkways, objects, whole rooms, or furniture) together. - sorted by station identity, type, purpose and so on.
    • Having more invulnerable stations, that are invulnerable all the time.
    • Regeneratable stations that regenerate fully after an attack and then become invulnerable again.
      • Scoreboard where people see how many blocks they destroyed/got destroyed on their ships
    • Self building stations that you can "order" to be build by a mod-mechanic
    • ask for more suggestions if you need more input. ;)
     
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    Lots of text, thanks :)
    Ill try to answer point-by-point.
    - I will try to draw a picture, but i can't guarantee that it will explain the idea well enough :P

    Admins setting up event/RP stuff:
    - i have abstracted and changed the internal code of the prototype, to allow the concept of "stronghold" and "strongpoint" to be flexible and easily exchangable. The "stronghold" could be modified to instead be a single region per Universe, that spans multiple starsystems, strongpoints are now ships to be boarded (or whatever). Same goes for modules like the "voidshield" that protects a stronghold, they can be added or removed easily now, i play with the idea of adding a module that precisely tracks enemies in your stronghold, a long range scanner.
    So i noticed very soon into the mod prototype, that i can abstract the idea of "this sector has to be conquered so that this starsystem is yours" further. I changed the code structure, so now its more generally "to conquer this 'region' you have to conquer these 'strongpoints'". regions are still stellar systems and strongpoints are still special sectors, but it can easily be changed now to be something else, maybe multiple connected starsystems and the strongpoints are now ships or whatever.

    Who is it for:
    - The prototype/brainstorming mostly targets players that are interested in anything the includes building stations. Pretty dumb answer, but that includes almost everyone EXCEPT the hardcore-pvp ppl, bc they only care about having a hidden base somewhere; setting up infrastructure that can be attacked is the exact opposite of their interests. A subfocus is to allow anyone including single-player-factions to protect their space, which includes offline-time.

    My stuff gets raided while im at work:
    - your concern is the very thing the prototype handles. To boil it down: you captured your systems strongpoints by placing stations in them. The systems "healtpoints" rise over time now, starting at -3000. After some time, you reach zero (~1 hours). At that point, the voidshield activates and protects EVERY station (belonging to you) in the system. The healthpoints rise until they hit a ceiling (300k points). Now an enemy comes, while you are offline. He purges all your strongpoints, and/or captures them himself. Your systems healthpoints start to fall over time. The voidshield is still active, all your stations are still safe. you now have about 3,5 days to come back online and take back your strongpoints or negotiate a peach-deal, until your HPs reach zero and the voidshield fails.

    I want more always-protected stations:
    - i understand the wish for some stations to always be invulnerable, but i think there are good reasons against it:
    we have one inv. station already (Homebase), which can not be conquered, no matter what (except waiting 6 montsh for FP to drain).
    That leads to most players just sitting in their homebase and just sitting out any enemies around. That one HB for everyone is fine, but all other stations need at least some way to be attacked. Of course the attack option needs to be balanced, so its difficult to pull off (capturing and holding the strongpoints for 4 days)

    Goal of the mod/my perfect world:
    - the mod goal is mainly two things: A) make it possible/easy to set up infrastructure while being able to defend them reliably (=its impossible to erase my empire while i am offline) B) achieve area-defense. that means some mechanic that forces attackers to attack a few specific positions to gain access to a bigger region, like a bottleneck/chokepoint on 2d territory. That way the defender can concentrate his firepower here and the attacker is forced to go through it. In a perfect game world, thats not necessary, here smart AI can spot raiding attackers for far away and react/intercept. Starmade isnt exactly a perfect AI simulation *cough*, so artifical chokepoints are the next best thing I can think of.

    The exact mechanic on how to achieve "reliable defense for multiple days" doesnt really matter to me, but i guess the conquer-strongpoint system is a fair one to both defender and attacker, and pretty straightforward.

    Thank you for your very detailed reply :)
     
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    Only skimmed so far but just a quick initial thought: why do the stations have to be destroyed?
    I would like to see the player character be more usefull like once a station's sheilds are dropped it must be boarded, netralized and captured. Once captured it must be held for a time before ownership could be transferred and it would become active again.
    You'ld have to have turrets vulnerable I guess.
     
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    LvD had such a system: prebuilt, indestructible stations had to be captured, focussed on astronaut combat.
    two reasons against that for my prototype:
    - i dont want to spawn a ton of prebuilt stations (3-7 per star system * 128^3 potential sytems / galaxy = big number)
    - astronauts have very bad synch issues, lag of minutes, desynch postions of 30 meters etc. (thats the main reason tbh)

    the stations can still be captured, the strongpoint only cares who owns the station.
     

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    That makes sense.

    How much of a station is needed to secure a strongpoint and what condition sets it's defeat? It was long ago but I remember the frustration and difficulty of finding and targeting one-block stations. I guess they would be highlighted now right?

    Is there a restriction on having void-shielded bases right on the sector borders of a strongpoint sector and the strongpoint securing station right on the other side of the border protected by ultra-heavy invulnerable turrets?

    Does this completely replace, or add to the normal homebase invulnerability?
     
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    Your systems healthpoints start to fall over time. The voidshield is still active, all your stations are still safe. you now have about 3,5 days to come back online and take back your strongpoints or negotiate a peach-deal, until your HPs reach zero and the voidshield fails.
    That is something I would not enjoy. I don't like to be forced to play a game in a given interval of time. The only exception would be if it was an absurdly huge interval (once a month) where I already know that the mod is supposed to enourage being online at least once a week.

    Basically you are mistaking your goals here: Do you want more stations, or do you want more online presence of players?

    That players are forced (if they want to utilise more than one invulnerable station) to come online once every 2 or 3 days (or any timeframe) has several downsides:
    1. Starmade does not have the population to support that 10% of hardcore gamers that spend alot of time
    2. Starmade does not have the game mechanics to justify spending so much time online
    3. A sandbox game with a huge universe has other possibilities of "soft rules" to encourage coming online, for example players that are online 2 or 3 times a week could be granted systems that a closer to the galactic centre, or they could aquire a spot on a central trade hub to offer ships or services.
    4. A huge part of the playerbase plays Starmade for creative mode with maybe 20% of their time in pvp/roleplay-survival. This player-type has a completely different playstile: Online 2 weeks where they have an idea, then offline 2 - 4 weeks. And they dont want to use any game-station-setup where they have to worry about their in progress builds. A station is not a "I save it and rebuild a copy of it" type of thing for quite a few players, a station is an individual home. Why would I make a second individual hideout, when I know I have to save it as blueprint every time, and even if I rebuild it it would just be a copy? -> Players want this sort of "I build my individual station instead of spawning it in" playstyle, where they extend it individually step by step when they accumulated the next amout of ressources for their next expansion.
    I don't want to change your mind. I see alot of pros for the way you want to implement the mechanics. I just wanted to give you another point of view towards the topic. If you implement the mod as you intend I would already be happy to try it one day. (y)
     
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    That makes sense.

    How much of a station is needed to secure a strongpoint and what condition sets it's defeat? It was long ago but I remember the frustration and difficulty of finding and targeting one-block stations. I guess they would be highlighted now right?

    Is there a restriction on having void-shielded bases right on the sector borders of a strongpoint sector and the strongpoint securing station right on the other side of the border protected by ultra-heavy invulnerable turrets?

    Does this completely replace, or add to the normal homebase invulnerability?
    The voidshield extends the homebase system, it does not replace it.

    You can secure a strongpoint with any kind of station, no limits, as long as the station is factioned (and not a HB). One block stations might be painful to overheat, but you can very easily capture them, which has the same effect.
    Currently no limits on having bordering turret stations, but i could make an extra rule that the neighbour sectors of a strongpoint are not voidshielded.


    To jinM:
    I know that most players have "offline times" of sometimes months, but i dont think there is a fair way to protect their bases too. It has to be fair to the attacker as well, telling them to wait 4 weeks until they can purge you is not a good option imo. BUT since the voidshield only depends on a systems "healthpoints", you could just raise the point ceiling (in a config that i have not built yet) to extend the "survival duration" to 4 weeks. So the duration of your system protection is a balancing decision to be made by server owners :).

    Also, the mod is finished, tested and playable, i even added some ingame tutorial and sounds to make it a bit more polished. So feel free to test it out.: <Stronghold>
     
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    Crashmaster

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    What use does having potentially vulnerable non-strongpoint stations do for a faction that the permanently invulberable homebase can not?

    Or

    Why bother to build destroyable stations to protect extra h.b. stations? Other than fun.


    For people who are infrequently online what do you think about the voidshield h.p. decay rate being different depending on percent of faction members online? A variable rate might help accomodate more varied playstyles.
     
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    Why would i want station protection if i can have a protected homebase:
    For vanilla gameplay:

    • one protected station per faction-member:
      • no more overcrowded homebases
      • no more complicated "anti griefing" techniques
      • every factionmember can express their own style in their own station(s)
    • warpgate networks
    • ports for staging fleets (replaces voidstaging)
    • shipyards, so you dont have to build a 2km long homebase
    For modded gameplay:
    • passive resource extractors (Resources Resourced)
    • warpbeacons (WarpSpace)
    • future specialized infrastructure like deepspace radar stations, longrange artillery platforms, passive factories, refueling platforms, etc
    How about making the voidshield-duration/system-healthpoints depend on how many factionmembers are online?
    Its possible, but then it could be 100% be replaced by factionpoints and just allowing more than one homebase.
    It would also complicate things and understanding why the healthpoints change how much per second is more diffuclt/less transparent.
    In my experience, the simplest, most transparent mechanic works best because everyone can understand it.
    Assuming that the voidshield-lifetime depends on how many members are online:
    should the voidshield be alive longer, just because more members are online?
    - if more are online, they can counter-attack, there is no need to make the voidshield be alive longer.

    should the voidshield be alive less long, the more members are online?
    - being offline would be rewarded here, and people would go offline as soon as they get attacked. Not a good reward-mechanic :)

    in conclusion: being online "is a reward in itself", because you can react to and counter threats. Because of that, i would like voidshield-lifetime to be not influenced by "time spent online" at all.
    The voidshield is not supposed to protect you against all attacks, but instead to give you a fair chance to fight back.
     
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    Why bother to build destroyable stations to protect extra h.b. stations? Other than fun.
    It's a game, if it's not about "fun"... then it's "pointless".

    The voidshield is not supposed to protect you against all attacks, but instead to give you a fair chance to fight back.
    "fair": PvP + fair-Play are practically non-existant online... "META-rolling" is the "most effective tactic available", need I say more?

    I/we... were working on a system regarding stations and HB-invulnerability:
    if adj sector x4 has station == give HB-Invulnerability (i.e. at least 4x defensive stations gives center-station HB-Invulnerability)...
    just to make META-rolling harder, i.e. more work and more rewarding while giving defensive stations more of a chance.
    ... but as long as the rules-system is just as broken as everything else, it can't work either.

    Nice to see all the effort, but as long as nobody works on fixing "broken-core-mechanics/bugs/optimization"...
    it's all just good for practice/learning etc... none-the-less...
    good work!
     
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    4 battlestations would not prevent your homebase from being meta-rolled, it would just take the attacker an hour longer.
    The key here is to make the process of the rolling so long, that the player has a chance to intervene, even if he is offline at the time :) at least thats what i attempt to do :P

    I also think homebases should remain completely safe, forever. There should always be some point where you can retreat after you were brutally wiped and restart. one station doesnt really bother anyone, and it saves me from being bullied so badly i stop playing :D

    I had requests to add more special abilities to a controlled system, thought about long range radar and maybe a passive shield buff (at least for stations). Might have to come up with sub-mechanics that kind of restrict these special abilities, so they dont just depend on system control.
     
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    4 battlestations would not prevent your homebase from being meta-rolled, it would just take the attacker an hour longer.
    exactly my point... make it hard enough so that a single player in overpowered ship CANNOT complete the task alone.

    There should always be some point where you can retreat after you were brutally wiped and restart.
    agreed, the HQ/Homebase

    EDIT: 4 station minimum... more are possible... which will result in an omgwtf-redundancy-matrix iam aware (+mass-lag)... but I never got further because, well... didn't work anyways.
     
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    What do you think about a score system then? Your faction's pointless score is better the more stations you can keep up. It's just a pointless metric to drive station expansion and competition. A faction status symbol.
     
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    i like it. gummy-points are always a cool thing :) what i dont like, is that someone has to build a GUI for a leaderboard :P
     
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    Yeah sure. But chat is at most a makeshift solution. Longterm i wont get around a GUI. Chat Solutions tend to get spammy
     
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    Yeah sure. But chat is at most a makeshift solution. Longterm i wont get around a GUI. Chat Solutions tend to get spammy
    You could use `/server_message_broadcast info` so it doesn't fill up the chat and post the scoreboard using the inbuilt mail system?
     
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    Just to give a quick update:
    Strongholds has been running on Skies of Eden now for a few days. Its fully functional since 3 days ago and i currently own 2 voidshielded systems on my survival account ( i dont think anyone else does yet)
    It turns out that 3,5 or 7 controlpoints/strongpoints is to many, especially if warpspace is installed. Visiting all the points is very tedious and not fun. It also causes the mindset "eh its just one point who cares". So i lowered it to 1,2,3 or 4 points in update 0.13.2

    A bunch of issues that came up:
    If you loose ownership of the system, the stronghold gets hard reset. That is to prevent one faction of stealing a stronghold with a full voidshield.
    But sometimes you have to reset ownership for a second, i stupidly used a strongpoint station as the "system-owning station" and it promptly got killed by someone, resetting my whole (voidshielded) stronghold. So ill try to figure out a way that allows a short period without a system owner.


    Stations dont have a ton of functionality. Im quite happy that i could spawn in a big ass shipyard i got from SMD and not clutter my HB even further, but apart from that, theres not really much more to do. I will set up some gates and also a fleet-staging point where i can safely dock fleets.


    One of the primary things that triggered this prototype, was that warpspace sucks if you dont have gate infrastructure. Skies of Eden has public ones, but they are small and dont reach everywhere. Some players started spawning their own gates, and those get bombed pretty quickly. so i wanted a way to protect player-built-gate infrastructure that goes beyond just hiding them.
    Now, setting up a whole defended stronghold system just to spawn a single gate that might just be a middle gate between to far away points, is pretty pointless. It also inflates the amount of systems you have to own. So im thinking of a way to project a voidshield onto far away stations, outside the stronghold, to allow protection of gate networks.
    One idea was, to just add a -1 to the strongholds balance for every remote-protected station. Maybe even base it on distance or size of station etc. So if you want to protect a remote (gate) station, you have to own one more control point to balance it out.

    Derp rushed to merge a new AI feature into release, so AI ships can scan and use inhibitors. Stronghold uses scanner activity to display info to the chat. So now if you are flying a fleeted ship, it will spam you chat console bc it scans all the time.

    Apart from the above things, its all working smoothly now and im looking forward to expand my empire and hope some of y'all might do so too.